The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gordon
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY TREASURER AND EX OFFICIO COUNTY COLLECTOR OF COOK COUNTY ILLINOIS FOR ORDER OF JUDGMENT AND SALE OF LANDS AND LOTS UPON WHICH ALL OR A PART OF THE GENERAL TAXES FOR THE 1990 TAX YEAR ARE DELINQUENT PURSUANT TO APPLICABLE SECTIONS OF THE REVENUE ACT OF 1939, AS AMENDED,
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 93CoTD3536
Honorable Michael J. Murphy, Judge Presiding.
This case comes before us on an appeal from a final judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County that a property tax sale held pursuant to the Revenue Act of 1939 (35 ILCS 205/1 et seq. (West 1992) was a sale in error. The court sustained the protest of respondent First Chicago Bank of Ravenswood (Bank or First Chicago) to the petition of Cambridge Investment Group (Cambridge) for a tax deed, and voided the sale of delinquent property taxes to Cambridge. Cambridge appeals. For the reasons explained below, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction without reaching the merits.
The facts relevant to our Disposition may be briefly stated. In March 1992 Cambridge purchased the delinquent taxes on two parcels of property at the annual tax sale conducted by the Cook County Treasurer, in his capacity as the ex officio County Collector. The property was owned by National Boulevard Bank of Chicago Trust No. 8368, of which Sacramento Real Estate Corporation was the sole beneficiary, subject to a mortgage held by First Chicago. There is essentially no dispute that at the tax sale the parcels were initially called in permanent real estate index number (PIN) order, but were not sold at the time because they were listed in the Collector's records as being in bankruptcy. However, after proceedings outside of the sale area, in which the Collector's Office determined that the parcels were not in fact in bankruptcy, the parcels were offered for sale and sold at the close of the regular sale day. Cambridge was the successful bidder, and paid the County Clerk the back taxes on the property, plus all penalties and interest thereon.
In December 1993 Cambridge filed a petition for tax deed for the two parcels. In February and March 1994 First Chicago redeemed the parcels under protest, contending that the proper procedures had not been followed in the tax sale process in that the parcels were sold out of PIN sequence. In conjunction with its certificate of protest, the Bank deposited with the County Clerk a sum of money equal to the amount Cambridge had paid for the property, plus an additional sum it potentially owed as a penalty for the privilege of redeeming its property (referred to as "statutory penalty interest"). The case was tried to the bench between September and November 1994.
In February 1995 the circuit court entered a written memorandum and order denying the protest. The court retained jurisdiction over the case to award Cambridge expenses and attorney fees, as authorized by statute. See 35 ILCS 205/253(f) (West 1992). In July 1995, on the motion of Cambridge for release of funds, the court directed the County Clerk to disburse to Cambridge all amounts it had paid at the tax sale and any taxes it had subsequently paid on the properties, but to retain the moneys deposited by the Bank in connection with its redemption under protest in an interest-bearing account. The order provided that "pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a), that there is no reason to delay the enforcement or appeal of this judgment order."
In August 1995, still before the court had awarded attorney fees or expenses, the Bank filed a motion to vacate or modify the judgment entered in July. In January 1996 the court reversed its February 1995 order and entered a written memorandum sustaining the Bank's protest on the grounds that the tax sale was a "private sale" and had not been conducted in PIN order. On February 13, 1996 the court entered an order consistent with the January 1996 memorandum. The order directed the County Clerk to keep sufficient funds to pay all of the taxes, interest and late payment penalties owed to the County on the two parcels, and return to the "party redeeming" all remaining money it held. The order provided that it was "a final and appealable order as to all issues raised in the Redemption Under Protest and no just reason exists to delay enforcement and any appeal of this Order."
On February 20, shortly after the circuit court entered its February 1996 order, Sacramento Real Estate Corporation (Real Estate) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Illinois. In re Sacramento Real Estate Corporation, No. 96--B--3992. On February 22, 1996, respondent Sacramento Crushing Corporation (Crushing) and Sacramento Corporation (Sacramento), the parent company to Real Estate and Crushing, followed suit, and filed their own separate Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions. In re Sacramento Crushing Corporation, No. 96--B--4120; In re Sacramento Corporation, No. 96--B--4121. The three bankruptcy proceedings were consolidated in the bankruptcy court in May 1996. The consolidated case was dismissed in December 1996, and closed in May 1998. During the course of the bankruptcy action, the bankruptcy court determined that the amount refunded by the circuit court to the "party redeeming" did not belong to the Bank, but was the property of the bankruptcy estate of the debtors.
On February 26, 1996, subsequent to the bankruptcy filings by the Sacramento entities, but within 30 days after the circuit court entered its February 1996 order sustaining the redemption under protest, Cambridge filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's January 1996 memorandum and February 1996 order. The court denied Cambridge's motion for reconsideration in April 1996. Later in April 1996 Cambridge filed this appeal.
As noted above, we find the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
As a reviewing court, we must be certain of our jurisdiction prior to proceeding in a cause of action. R.W. Dunteman Co. v. C/G Enterprises, Inc., 181 Ill. 2d 153, 159, 692 N.E.2d 306, 310 (1998). We are obliged to dismiss an appeal if we lack jurisdiction, even if no party to the appeal has raised the issue. Shanklin v. Hutzler, 277 Ill. App. 3d 94, 99, 660 N.E.2d 103, 106 (1995); Fligelman v. City of Chicago, 264 Ill. App. 3d 1035, 1037, 637 N.E.2d 1195, 1196 (1994). In this case we begin with the uncontrovertible rule that a reviewing court has no jurisdiction over an appeal absent a properly filed notice of appeal. Niccum v. Botti, Marinaccio, DeSalvo & Tameling, Ltd., 182 Ill. 2d 6, 7, 694 N.E.2d 562, 563 (1998) ("filing a notice of appeal is the jurisdictional step which initiates appellate review"); R.W. Dunteman, 181 Ill. 2d at 159, 692 ...